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Roedl v. Midco International

April 29, 1998

CHARLES J. ROEDL, PETITIONER,
v.
MIDCO INTERNATIONAL, THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS, AND THE CHIEF LEGAL COUNSEL OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS, RESPONDENTS.



Charge No. 1996SA0695

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hopkins delivered the opinion of the court:

Rule 23 Order filed

March 20, 1998

Motion to publish granted

Review from the Department of Human Rights.

Charles J. Roedl, complainant, appeals from a decision of the Chief Legal Counsel of the Illinois Department of Human Rights (the Department) sustaining the Department's dismissal of complainant's charge of age discrimination against his former employer, Midco International (Midco), for lack of substantial evidence. On direct appeal to this court, pursuant to section 8-111(A)(1) of the Illinois Human Rights Act (775 ILCS 5/8-111(A)(1) (West 1996)), complainant argues that the Chief Legal Counsel erred in sustaining the Department's dismissal because the Department failed to consider all of the evidence. We affirm.

FACTS

On May 10, 1996, complainant filed a charge of discrimination against Midco, alleging that Midco fired him on March 26, 1996, in discrimination of his age. Complainant worked for Midco for 17 years before his termination. He was 48 years of age when he was fired. In his charging form, complainant listed 24 instances where his superiors made "negative reference to [his] age." Complainant alleged that he had "documented" each of the instances in which someone negatively referred to his age.

On June 13, 1996, Midco filed a verified response to complainant's charge, denying that it fired complainant on the basis of his age.

On February 6, 1997, the Department dismissed complainant's charge for lack of substantial evidence. The Department's investigative report was attached to the notice of dismissal. The investigative report sets forth complainant's prima facie case as: "1. Complainant was 48 years old. 2. Complainant was performing satisfactorily. 3. Complainant was discharged. 4. Complainant alleges Respondent does not discharge similarly situated younger employees." The Department accepted Midco's defense that "Complainant was discharged as a result of his explosive temper."

The Department listed nine witnesses that the investigator interviewed personally or by telephone. The nine witnesses were all current or former Midco employees whose statements supported Midco's defense that complainant "had temper outbursts and violent episodes that were becoming more frequent" and that complainant's work became less effective as his temper outbursts increased. Several of the witnesses stated that they had heard complainant's superiors make statements about his health but that they had not heard any derogatory remarks concerning his age.

In rebuttal of Midco's defense, complainant asserted that he was no more volatile than any other employee. Complainant also informed the investigator that another employee, Bertha Dobson, whose age complainant did not know, "was discharged because of her age." Complainant did not submit any additional information and did not submit the "diary" in which, he claimed, he detailed the negative comments by management regarding his age.

Midco claimed in surrebuttal that other employees display their tempers at the work site occasionally, but "nothing comparable to Complainant." Midco also claimed that Bertha Dobson was not fired due to her age but because she "was reluctant to learn to use a piece of equipment associated with doing her job." The Department stated that its finding of lack of substantial evidence was based upon evidence supporting Midco's defense that complainant had become increasingly combative on the job and that complainant was aware of the issue created by his temper. The Department found that complainant's temper outbursts became more intense and frequent toward the end of his employment. The Department found that other Midco employees occasionally succumbed to temper outbursts, but never to the extent of complainant's behavior. The Department found no evidence to corroborate complainant's allegations regarding age-related comments. The Department concluded that complainant failed to show that Midco's "articulated reasons for discharge were pretextual."

On March 13, 1997, complainant filed a timely request for review of the Department's dismissal of his charge of discrimination. In his 16-page argument, complainant argued, "[M]uch of the information gathered [by the Department] was either untrue or deliberately distorted to cover up the fact that MIDCO management repeatedly referred to my age prior to my ...


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